Marriage material

I’ve seen those girls
As they walk around the holy fire
Whispering their vows
Hands tied in a knot.

The spark of innocence ebbing away
As they chant scriptures
Their kohl rimmed eyes
Water at the magnitude
Of their uncomfortable reality

Is this the same girl
Who would walk boldly
Answerable to no one

But now she lingers
With every footstep
Her future looks uncertain

Is it the same girl
Who would be at the doorstep
Of her best friend
At every beck and call

Now those
Unanswered pings
And unfocused glances
Mean more than any text ever could

Can she cook?
They asked the girl
Who loved being fed
All the time

Can she sing?
They asked the girl
Who won karoake night
At the bar

Can she tie a saree
They asked a girl
Who found comfort
In her brother’s t-shirt

Can she do housework?
She questioned the girl
Whose mother never let her
Daughter with allergy
Touch a broomstick

Like a sessions court
An order was passed
And a deal
Was struck without consent

It seemed
Like a suitable arrangement
For all

It never struck anyone
How it would be a whirlwind
For the girl being traded off
From the comfort of her home
To foreign shores
Where she would be scrutinised

Judged and hurt
Only to transform
Into a stranger
Even she couldn’t recognise.

Marriage, they called it.

Labyrinth of Ruins: Backpacker’s Guide to Hampi

 IMG_20170907_000910_125

There are some days when you just want to break away from the monotony of life and simply wrap yourself in a quiet space, tucked away from the fast-paced world. Just to tell yourself that it is okay that the world and the elements around you are moving fast, but your heart, will beat the same way, slowly and steadily just for you and what you believe in. One of those days, I decided to pack my bags and set off to the land of ruins because it was the perfect setting to dwell in my melancholic musings.

It was an almost impromptu trip. I decided to go on a long weekend but I made this decision only two days before the trip, late I agree, but since I had my friend Tenzin for company, we managed to split the bookings in such a way that it wasn’t too overwhelming.

IMG_20170904_072454_503

We booked an overnight bus from Bangalore to Hospet. Lot of private and local buses ply in the route but if you get time to plan this out, you should book a train as it is way more comfortable. Hospet is situated about 350 Kms from Bangalore and takes about 6-7 hours to reach this little district.

My first impression of Hampi was formed when I woke up in between my bus journey and looked at the crystal clear stars from the window of my sleeper bus. They glimmered so bright. I felt as if they were taking the journey with me, whispering stories of this mythological town.

IMG_20170902_083621

IMG_20170902_124725

After haggling with auto-drivers upon arrival, we took an auto for about Rs. 150 to Hampi, which is located about half an hour away from this town. We had booked at Hema Guest House in Hampi Island (I agree the name does not sound very alluring) but GoiBibo called me to inform that we had got an upgrade to stay at a more expensive resort called Kishkinta.

Thanking our lucky stars, we headed to the resort. So to get to the Island, you need to take a coracle boat ride which costs around Rs. 50. Squatting in the coracle with Tenzin, I couldn’t wait to discover what Hampi had in store for us if the serene boat ride was any predicament for the time to come. We were allotted a terracotta hut which was both clean and had all basic facilities. By this point we were famished and thankfully the food was good. The spread included bread, butter, poha, idly, vada, sambar, chutney and fruit salad.

IMG_20170902_080141_Bokeh.jpg

On Hampi Island, you can explore only few things. We decided to cover Gagan Mahal Palace and temple, Anegundi Palace and Durga Temple. While these places were once attractive and whole, now they are a ghost of their past and most places are damaged or terribly decapitated. This does not, however, prevent them from being beautiful with their bruises.

IMG_20170902_124849

The only way to get around in Hampi island is to rent a bike and chug away while you explore the ruins. So with a worn out map in hand, we set out, exploring these places one by one. I would say just the ride was worth staying in Hampi island. Roads are not well developed and it is a conscious effort by UNESCO to keep it that way as too much development and access to the place will ruin the aesthetics that it has to offer tourists. The place is replete with guest houses which serve brilliant world cuisines that you should not miss out on. We stopped at Gauthami Guest House to have lunch and oh my! We were thoroughly impressed by the laid-back décor. Trippy paintings adorn the wall, mattresses with low tables, rustic fans revolving in a quaint thatched roof and mellow music lilting across the hall-all these left us in a trance. We couldn’t leave the place for couple of hours. We literally just slept there lazily while our omelets and pasta arrived, which were brilliant by the way.

IMG_20170902_133410_Bokeh

IMG_20170903_110946

We then headed back to Kishkinta resort, packed our bags and decided to head to Gauthami resort for the night. Those trippy lights in the shape of tornadoes were calling out to us, what could we possible do?

This is where we were in for a rude surprise. The run down moped that we were given really ran down while we were traveling alone at night (with pepper sprays-don’t worry). Initially, just the lights went out, so I held out my phone torch so Tenzin could drive in spite of the dark and weird insects that were getting into her eyes. Then when we hit a speed bump, it gave away completely and was sputtering like a parched crow.  What also scared us were hoots from bunch of drunk guys on the way. We were worried that they would have followed us to this point. My heart started pounding when I heard footsteps behind us and I turned, all ready with my handy pepper spray, only to discover that it was a different man, walking alone with a torch. He in fact, offered to help us and checked the bike. He then came to the conclusion that the bike’s chain had come off and it could be fixed in a jiffy. We then pushed the bike to the resort (which was thankfully almost nearby) and then the friendly Tamil owners lent a hand and fixed it for us at no cost!

IMG_20170902_195846

Gauthami resort is actually a shack so it was really cheap to stay there. It costed about Rs. 600 for a night. Our lunch and dinner bills were more than the cost of stay!

The next day, we zoned out of the shack mode and focused on the heavy duty day ahead. We packed our luggage, crossed the island with the help of the coracle and headed to Mango Tree for brunch.

IMG_20170903_192551

Here we kept our bags and headed out to all the sight seeing places that we had to cover for the day. We were hounded by guides to take us around, but we decided to just take a dedicated auto driver who would take us to the spots we wanted and we read up about the places as we reached each place. We went to Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple, Krishna Bazaar, Krishna Temple, Lakshmi Narasimha, Badava Linga, Stone Chariot in Vittala Temple, Hazararama Temple, Lotus Mahal and Zanana Enclosure, Elephant Stables and Virupaksha Temple. Yes we managed to cover so many monuments in one day! Of course, it resulted in us getting thoroughly toasted but it was worth it.

We first headed to Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple which is a gigantic statue of Lord Ganesha, carved out of a single block of rock at about 8 feet. While we cannot enter the premises of this enclosure, we can view it from a distance due to its powering height.

IMG_20170903_121658

The Krishna Bazaar is a newly excavated site and is a car track for the Krishna Temple. It used to be replete with shops in the 1500s and was a bustling market place back then. Now only the ruins exist and you’ll have to take a short steep walk down to get to this place. The Krishna Temple is also in ruins but worth visiting.

IMG_20170903_164531

The Hazararama Temple is interesting as Hazararama means- a thousand Ramas and refers to the multitude of relics depicting the reigning deity of the temple. Set in stone, these stories depict many familiar sub plots in the Ramayana, and its awe-inspiring to see how sculptors managed to carve these in that time period.

IMG_20170903_123407

Lakshmi Narasimha and Badava Linga are both next to each other. The Badava Linga is the second biggest Shiva relic in India and is a must visit. While it is in a well-shaped enclosure, you can get stunning visuals of the place.  The Lakshmi Narasimha relic is a bit run down, making the statue look a bit angry, almost like the Ugranarasimha (angry Narasimha) but in reality it is just a regular statue of god that hasn’t withstood the test of time.

IMG_20170903_142816_Bokeh

The iconic Stone Chariot within the Vittala temple is a must visit. You will need to take a battery car to get to the actual site. We stood in the queue to get a battery car for almost half an hour. Once we got in, the ride was good as the temple slowly comes into view and its magnificence hits you when you finally reach there. Tourists had utter disregard for the Stone Chariot and I noticed some children climbing on the elephant and taking selfies. It was just heart breaking to watch this and not having the power to do anything about it other than just asking them to move from the frame.

IMG_20170903_134557_01

We also took a guide here who explained the history of the temple and demonstrated the musical pillars for us. The pillars within the temple actually make sounds like the dol, table and dripping water when tapped! Don’t miss out on this when you visit.

IMG_20170904_073325_082

We then headed to Lotus Mahal which is located within the Zanana enclosure which was a segregated area that was used by the royal women of Vijayanagara Dynasty. It is named as Lotus Mahal because of the shape it resembles. The balcony and the passages covered with a dome that looks like an opened lotus bud. The symmetric pattern of the domes and the windows keep the building cool during summers.

We wrapped up this tiring day with a visit to Virupaksha temple. It was frankly not very impressive as they are currently repainting the exterior and is filled with construction debris but we had a good time filming monkeys surrounding the temple premises!

IMG_20170903_112808_Bokeh.jpg

We also sneaked in some time to do local shopping at the Hampi Bazaar which is right outside the Virupaksha Temple. You get crafts made by local artisans and some trippy shirts to take back with you as a token of Hampi.

IMG_20170902_120632.jpg

IMG_20170902_204719

To sum it up, it was a soul-searching trip that allowed us time to explore ruins and also get some rest in the laid-back shacks. Just to be amidst the Vijayanagara empire, I would visit Hampi, a thousand times over!

 

Wanderlust

As the plane shudders

Against the cold wind

And braves the thunder

and lightning storm.

 

I am reminded of the night

That smelt of old books and innocence.

When my world was turned upside down

When I realised what I knew all along had

Become my uncomfortable reality.

 

But departures are monotonous

Just like for any other plane.

Now I seek

Only a new destination.

Not the warmth of habit

Or the beauty of what I know.

Beauty lies in the unknown.

In exploring the crevices of new paths.

 

I fell into the trap

Of wanderlust,

And wander I will

Into the dense forests

Atop mountains

Across seas

And into the labyrinth of new worlds

Yet unravelled.

 

For if a wobbly body of aluminium

Can stay afloat at thirty five thousand feet,

Then our bodies that have withstood a sketch of scars

can soar a hundred rainbow skies.

 

Gratitude

What could that even mean?

In this juggernaut world,

that is bent

On bringing you down?

 

Sometimes, it is as simple as

Reciprocating your mother’s smile.

 

Sometimes,

It could mean,

Giving up what you want

For someone else’s need.

 

Sometimes,

It is being comfortable in your own shoes.

And not seeking new shores.

 

Sometimes,

It is opening your eyes

To the beauty that nature has to offer.

 

Every time,

It means thanking the stars.

For the opportunities that have made you.

 

It means

Having the strength to handle your regrets.

 

It means

Accepting yourself

Before accepting others.

 

Sometimes,

It is having friends in your life

Who show you the light

At the end of the tunnel.

 

Sometimes its thanking yourself

For choosing the right path.

 

Sometimes,

Its appreciating the inner voice

That never fails

When everything else has.

 

Sometimes,

There are no sometimes to be thankful for.

That’s when you practice gratitude.

 

Settle down

Settle down, they say
Oh why wouldn’t I
If only I didn’t have big plans
Of traveling the world
Of living my dreams
Of gazing at stars
Of sweating it out
Of following my passion
Of discovering myself.

Settle down they say.
They don’t know
The pain that comes
With our hearts attached to our sleeves

Settle down they say
They don’t know that it’s not
Our solitary purpose

Okay settle down for what?
With no agenda
With no courage
With no meaning

Why can’t we all settle ‘up’
Choose a higher beckoning?
Aim for the shooting stars?

Diamonds

Everyone fantasises about you

They don’t know how each cut

was so deep

You embraced hell

to be whole.

Everyone adores you,

They don’t know

That beautiful things are always broken.

They say you shine bright and radiant

They cannot decipher

The emptiness within.

Shadows of your past

Loom over your present

Blocking the rays of sunshine with storm clouds.

But you shine on,

Shoving away insecurities.

Laughing till your eyes shimmer.

Dancing in the sunlight,

Rushing towards your purpose.

Be unapologetic to be yourself.

Because diamonds were made to shed blood.

Train of thought

As the gentle murmur of the train
Soothes your senses
You ponder.
Have you forgotten how to live
The slow life
Hurried breaths
Unfinished sentences
Levitate like lapses in your soul
Smothering yourself with self doubt
You wander aimlessly
Reaching for a reality that never existed
Forgetting to dream
For they make you waver
From your sycophantic straight line.